The following was written by DeVern Fromke. It’s an excerpt from his superb book, Unto Full Stature.
DeVern’s chapter on this subject is about 3,000 words. I’ve shortened it considerably so that it’s more digestible for a blog post.
Has God intended that a Christian should fall in love?
It seems there are two false notions that dominate the world’s thought about love. First of all there is the fatalistic notion as expressed in the phrase “fall in love.” The very expression seems to suggest that love is a sort of trap into which one falls and, having fallen in, one is a hopeless victim unable to extricate oneself.
Second, love is thought of as an irresistible power that may overcome a person at any time. And, willy-nilly, you have to love a certain one regardless of circumstances and conditions. If things are such that you cannot get the one you have fallen in love with, then your fate is tragic. As the romance lyrics picture, you must pine away in regrets and unsatisfied longings. It is this warped notion of falling in love that has ruined homes and married couples. It accounts for the scandalous record of divorces in our nation.
Recently we read of a prominent playwright who, as he married his second wife, agreed with her that if love should ever depart, and either one of them should fall in love with anyone else, one would not seek to hold the other. He is now married to a third wife.
Thank God, love is not some cruel, unseen despot who plays with its victims. God does not intend that a Christian should marry simply because he has fallen in love. In his love he should be just as definitely guided by the Holy Spirit as in any other experience in his life. So we should choose to love the one to whom the Holy Spirit guides. With the renewed mind under the direction of the Holy Spirit, one can deliberately live in the will and live above all the animal magnetism of the flesh.
Now we are not implying that Christian people do not fall in love. Oh no! Perhaps the word “fall” explains exactly what they do. [In Greek] there are three levels of love: eros is passion and animal magnetism, phileo is a very high soulish fondness or natural affection often confused with divine love, agape is His divine love which is shed abroad by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5).
It is not that these two lower levels should not exist; no. God has planned them and built them into our being (Song of Solomon; 1 Cor. 7:3-5). But He never intended that either eros or phileo should be dominating or controlling. It is when the Holy Spirit is controlling to shed abroad agape love that the phileo love and the eros love are in their proper function.
Thus we can understand these infatuations which people call “love.” They begin with the imaginations of the fleshly mind, combine with the affections of the nature and arise to create what seems like an irresistible power. The world calls it love! But it is not God’s highest design. Because of these infatuations many young (and alas, older) are led astray.
Notice how fleeting and passing these infatuations may be. Here is a young man who can hardly eat or sleep because he is thinking only of a certain girl. He chooses to be occupied with only her. Then comes a day when she does something to hurt his ego. Perhaps she disappoints him and goes off with someone else. Lo and behold, the spell is broken and the infatuation is over. Suddenly he can see all kinds of things in her that he doesn’t like–things he never saw before.
Of course we have learned that when a young person is in the midst of such an “infatuation spell,” it is almost impossible to reason or show him anything. If we are wise, we shall give instruction before the hour of need so as to forewarn. He who has learned to live in his will won’t be the ready victim of these soulish whims.
There are many who have experienced love only in the second plane [phileo]. They have discovered a soul-mating because they have a union of ideals and values. But what happens when their ideals or values change? Others whose goals and plans were miles apart have experienced only passion and physical union [eros].
They assumed that sex appeal was all there is in love; and when the sex appeal seems to have shifted or waned, they imagined that love had left. It is lives who have built upon these shallow notions who can expect sin and sorrow and wrecked homes [See Matt. 7:24-29].
How necessary that our conception of love be rectified. Many who have not known much of the mental or spiritual aspects wonder why the physical aspect of love cannot hold them. They cannot understand how the Bible can command a husband and wife to continue to love each other as long as they live. If love were merely a physical or emotional thing that could not be possible. But God intends that love be something which the spirit and will controls. We are to thoughtfully and by a deliberate action of the will choose to love. This love is not something one merely falls into.
How often we have heard the confession of some confused heart: “I just don’t love the Lord as I know I should.” Because the world’s sentimental notion of love has been imposed upon the church, many seem unable to manufacture that kind of religious emotion which they so often hear about in songs, sermons and writings. And they imagine, perhaps after all, they have only an empty profession and are not truly a believer.
Now the very fact of their genuine longing to love Him would seem to indicate they have encountered Him as Lord and trusted His finished work on Calvary. Why then, does this love which the Scriptures so emphatically command, seem to consistently elude them?
Dr. A. W. Tozer has asked and then answered this question.
“One of the puzzling questions likely to turn up sooner or later to vex the seeking Christian is how he can fulfill the scriptural command to love God with all his heart and his neighbor as himself.
The earnest Christian, as he meditates on his sacred obligations to love God and mankind, may experience a sense of frustration engendered by the knowledge that he cannot seem to work up any emotional thrill over his Lord or his brothers. He wants to, but he cannot, the delightful wells of feeling simply will not flow. To find our way out of the shadows and into the cheerful sunlight we need only to know that there are two kinds of love–the love of feeling and the love of willing. The first lies in the emotions, the other in the will. Over the one we may have little control. It comes and goes, rises and falls, flares up and disappears as it chooses, and changes from hot to warm to cool and back to warm again, very much as does the weather.”
This emotional love surely was not in the mind of Christ when He told His people to love God and each other. But the love which Jesus introduces is not the love of feeling. “It is the love of willing, the willed tendency of the heart” (Tozer).